Let the Fresh Waters Flow

by A.W.Tozer on April 5, 2022

Let the Fresh Waters Flow Isaac reopened the old wells—-an object lesson for us By A.W.Tozer
WHAT GOOD IS A WELL that is stopped up or dry? Isaac, second in the line of Hebrew patriarchs, must have asked that question many times. If you doubt it, look at the record in Genesis 26. The answer, I am sure, was always the same. A stopped up, dry well is of no value to anyone until it is re-dug and cleaned out so the fresh water is again available. At least at one point in his life, Isaac showed great concern for the unused, stopped-up weUs that his father Abraham earlier had dug. Reflecting on Isaac and his well-digging afford us opportunity to consider some of the fountainheads in our Christian assemblies that are stopped up and dry. Once they were channels intended to be blessings. But the water has ceased to flow. As we follow our emphasis on genuine Christian experience, we can profit by considering what keeps us from meeting God in daily Bible meditation and private prayer. From my observation, I fear there is very little fresh water flowing from the wells of scriptural confession and reconciliation. In our churches we Christians shy away from such unpopular subjects as self-discipline arid serious wholehearted commitment. Surely those wells need to be reopened if we are to be pleasing to our Lord. Have you heard anything lately concerning scriptural contrition of heart and the great need for true repentance? The devil, that old and ancient enemy of our souls, makes it his important business to stop up the wells of spiritual blessing and Christian experience. He is trying his best to sell Christians short, suggesting that these channels of blessing are now ancient and out-of-date. He would have us believe they should be allowed to dry up to a trickle and finally be abandoned altogether. We will consider these issues within the framework of Isaac's experiences, so first let's look briefly at the record of his life and his testimony for God. It is only fair to admit that we do not remember Isaac in the same way we do his father Abraham. But we should not be surprised that the mature Isaac became God's man in his generation. Although he never attained the stature of his father, he had his personal encounters with the Lord.  What young man had a more memorable, dramatic experience of God's dealings with people than the boy Isaac? Taken by his father at God’s bidding to a distant mountaintop where the Lord had said he should be sacrificed, Isaac asked, "Father, you have everything ready for the sacrifice, but where is the lamb—the animal to be slain?" And Abraham answered, "The Lord will provide!” But it was Isaac, not a lamb, who was tied to that altar of sacrifice. An angel intervened, halting God's test of Abraham's faith. And, sure enough, a ram from a nearby thicket became the sacrifice. As Isaac grew older, what do you suppose he would have replied to anyone who suggested that his father's God was not real, not alive? “Do not tell me that God is not a living God,”I suspect he would have replied. “Do not tell me my father's God is not real. I remember well the day I was on the altar. I know very well the faith of my father Abraham. I live today because God lives and cares. I am aware that I am known personally to Him!” The Genesis record tells us that during a time of famine, Isaac started moving toward Egypt with his flocks, as Abraham had done years earlier. Ultimately he reached the land of Gerar. There the Lord appeared to him and told him not to go to Egypt, but to stay in Gerar, where Abimilech ruled. After making an agreement with the king, Isaac pitched his tents in the valley of Gerar. Immediately he started locating and re-digging the wells that his father had dug years before. These were wells that the enemy Philistines, after the death of Abraham, had filled in and made useless. Now, as Isaac and his servants began opening them, producing potable water, they were challenged by the local herdsmen. “This water is ours,” the herdsmen contended. Isaac was not a fighting man. He just wanted room for his family and his flocks. So he picked up his tents and moved on to the site of another well. When Isaac finally dug a flowing well and there was neither challenge nor conflict, he called it Rehobeth, meaning that God had made room for him. “Now the Lord has made room for us,” he said to his household. "We shall be fruitful in the land.”Later, going up to Beersheba, Isaac was visited by the Lord, who said, “Fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee” (Genesis 26:24). Isaac immediately did two things, and I believe that each had its own significance. First, he built an altar and worshiped, calling on the name of the Lord. Then, with his servants, he dug another well! Isaac remembered his boyhood and the wells of flowing water. That part of the world has always been arid. Isaac knew very well that fresh, flowing water was not just an option. It was a necessity. And here is where we tie in these actions of Isaac with the Christian life. We are on familiar ground in the fourth chapter of John's Gospel, where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again,” He said: "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (4:13-14). In his day, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah had used a like figure. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come" (55:1). The underground streams of water in our world are a free gift of God. Mankind could never create the natural flow of water. It is there by the provision of Almighty God, the Creator. Man must dig his wells to tap the water source, to get down where the water flows. Once released, the water blesses God's creation. Think of the wells of water representing the doctrines, methods and channels we use to obtain the water of life—salvation through Jesus Christ—God's free gift to a sinning, dying world. For us, the flow began when our Lord Jesus Christ opened His great heart as He died on Calvary’s cross. With God's help, I want to make the application of Bible truth practical and helpful. The first practical question is: Who will reopen these wells? You may be tempted to suggest that we pray and ask God to open the wells. No! No! God had put the water in the ground at Gerar and Beersheba, and there was plenty more where it came from. But God did not tell Isaac to go lie down under a cactus and rest while He did the digging. For our Christian blessings. God has already made full provision in the atoning death of Jesus Christ and in the supernatural ministries of the Holy Spirit. God has given us spiritual tools—the abilities to trust Him and to believe Him and to obey Him. He has also given us intelligence to realize what we ought to do and how we can lay hold of His blessings. People are slow to take God at His Word. I would not be faithful to my commission if I did not remind you that men and women are now in hell who had the belief that God was going to do for them what only they could do for themselves. They have gone out into eternity without ever having said, "Jesus, I come.” They wanted God to do what He specifically had told them to do! God saw fit to create us as individuals, and it is as individuals that we are responsible and accountable to God. If we are believing Christians, God has given us many responsibilities that relate to our own spiritual blessing and maturity. He has also given us responsibilities that relate to the spiritual good of the community of Christians where we have been placed. Friend, we must dig out the old wells! We must recognize our dryness of spirit, our coldness of heart. We must make the decision to renew our desire for God, for the outpouring of His Spirit and for the seasons of rejoicing as we become more like Jesus. Many a congregation has been renewed and blessed when believers have been willing to reopen the Bible wells of reconciliation and confession. When Christians are harboring hard feelings against each other, they need to be reconciled. They need to confess and ask forgiveness. I refer here to actual sins and faults. There are people in continual bondage to mere trifles and inconsequential matters. God has given us the Holy Spirit to be our prompter and our guide. And He has given us good sense as well to go along with our consciences. In sincere and honest confession, two areas are involved. If you have sinned and wronged someone, you need to take the matter to the Lord first and receive Mis forgiveness. Then you need to go to the person you have wronged and ask his or her forgiveness. I am not in agreement with the practice of making confessions public knowledge. Why should we encourage people to stand in front of the entire congregation to confess their embarrassing life histories? I have followed this as a sound formula over the years: Tell God in earnest prayer, then go to the person you have wronged. These private matters do not need to be shouted from the housetops. Even your pastor does not need the details. Let your confession be made honestly to God, and then follow through with the one you have wronged. Something more needs to be said about reconciliation among Christians. The Bible admonishes us to live in peace with everyone, but with two gracious little disclaimers: “If it be possible" and “as much as lieth in you" (Romans 12:18). If you have ever thought you could succeed in getting everyone to love you, think again! There are some people with whom you cannot live in peace and keep your conscience right. Do the best you can, and do not worry about them. The old saints said, "Tell the truth and shame the devil.” If in shaming the devil with the truth you wound someone who refuses to forgive, live in peace as much as lies in your power. Remember that Jesus died with some people hating Him. Now, let me observe that some Christians think they can be disciples of Christ without ever a thought about the necessity of self-discipline and genuine commitment to Him. We must face the fact that many today are notoriously careless in their living. This attitude finds its way into the church. We have liberty, we have money, we live in comparative luxury. As a result, discipline practically has disappeared. What would a violin solo sound like if the strings on on the musician instrument were all hanging loose, not stretched tight, not “disciplined’? Being an artist. the musician would not attempt to bring sound from that violin until each string had been tuned and tested and all was in perfect harmony. In things that matter with God-important things—we need to be disciplined, pulled together, attuned to the Spirit until we are in harmony with all of God's planning for us.  Are you asking what kind of medieval doctrine this is? How could we be more up-to-date than to be praying that we accept God's disciplines for our lives? God expects us to wisely use our time. He wants us to repent for our carelessness and laziness in matters of the Spirit. You can reject this concept of wholehearted commitment to Jesus Christ if you wish. But this is a very good well to be unstopped. Our fathers found refreshing water in it! I want to emphasize another important well—one of the most neglected. It has to do with spiritual progress and victory. Our fathers found that God’s instructions could be trusted. "Cease to do evil. Learn to do good.” God has never changed His instructions about repentance. When we come to God, contrite and in believing faith, there is bound to be a moral housecleaning. And we are not even coming close to talking about legalism! In His ministry, Jesus taught plainly that repentance is not just for the bad, bad few. He said about the GalUeans on whom the tower fell, "Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you. Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall aU likewise perish" (Luke 13:2-3). There are many peculiar ideas about biblical repentance. I have talked with people who tried to tell me that repentance is necessary because “it makes you fit so that God can save you.” The Bible does not teach that, and it never did. No man or woman has changed the character and goodness of God by an act of repentance. All the repentance in the universe cannot make God any more loving, any more gracious. Repentance is not a meritorious act. God is eternally good, and He welcomes us into His love, grace and mercy when we meet His condition of an about-face so that we are aware of His smile. Repentance means turning around from our evil ways in order to look to Jesus. The person who will not repent still has his or her back turned on God.  Repentance is a condition we meet in order that God, already wanting to be good to us, can be good to us, forgiving and cleansing us. In that sense, then, the man who loves his sin and hangs on to it cannot reasonably expect the goodness and the grace of God. We who are forgiven and justified sinners sensed in our own repentance only a token of the wounding and the chastisement that fell on our Lord Jesus Christ as He stood in our place. A truly penitent person does not feel he or she dares to ask God to let him or her off. But peace has been established. The blows fell on Jesus. This gracious message from God that there is a substitutionary atonement through the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ is the good news that "with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). Another thing. There are many, many today who are passing by the need for spiritual training. They see not the necessity of forming right religious habits. They do not realize that we must wrestle against the world, the flesh and the devil. They have become so assured that they are saints by call that they seek not to be saints by character. If we think of repentance as something we do only once in our Christian experience, we need to get the well open again. We need to dig out the rubbish and get the water flowing once more. Probably the most important discipline we have abandoned is meditation in God's Word, related as it is to the necessity for private prayer. How well I know from my own experience that Satan is always busy stopping up the well of private prayer. Not one of us among God's children is immune to this danger of losing out in our prayer life. I knew of an able preacher greatly used of the Lord in evangelism and Bible conferences. He was a busy, busy man. There came the occasion when someone frankly asked him, "Doctor, tell us about your prayer life. How do you pray? How much do you pray?" The man was embarrassed as he replied, “I must conies to you something I have not confessed before. I do not have the time to pray as I used to. My time alone with God has been neglected."  "Not too long afterward, that preacher sustained a serious failure. It brought his ministry to an abrupt end, and he was put on the shelf. If we want to Be honest with God, we will take solemnly the admonition to pray without ceasing. God’s work on this earth languishes when God’s people give up their ministries of prayer and supplication. I cannot tell you why this is true, but it is true. What about the power of God's Word in your life? Have you been spiritually blessed through meditating on it? Do you find Bible study a delight? Perhaps that well is also stopped up! If we will thoughtfully read the Bible, we will find it the source of great grace. I remember James M. Gray, the noted Bible teacher, telling of a Christian brother, a Michigan farmer, whose spiritual life had suddenly blossomed until there was an overflowing of God's presence. Many in the man's community recognized the change in his life and personality and sought spiritual counsel from him. Dr. Gray had the opportunity to ask the man about the transformation of his spiritual life and witness. "Dr. Gray, I began to devote myself to the Scriptures for my own need," the man humbly explained. "Something happened when God opened my spiritual understanding as I studied the book of Ephesians. I cannot really explain what the Lord is doing for me and through me, but it has come through prayerful meditation m the Word of God.” None of us can expect to get the rich, transforming blessings from God apart from the Scriptures. The Scriptures are a deep, flowing well in themselves. Too many of us ministers and teachers are content to reach for a commentary on the Scriptures. What we need most is to search the Scriptures for ourselves. If we have a tender, obedient, prayerful heart, the Holy Spirit will tell us about the text. He is the kind of help we need! I hope you are not bragging that you have no doubts or fears. God does not want us to be hypocrites. He expects us to be realists. I heard about an old Christian man who testified, "I'll admit that I sometimes have doubts. But I always take them to God immediately. I just dive down to the bottom and examine the foundations of my faith. That tactic has not failed yet. Always I have come to the surface singing "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,  Is laid for your faith m His excellent Word.” That quite well sums up all that I have been trying to say. The believer who takes his or her spiritual problems to God and to His Word will always be the spiritually refreshed believer! (From the book Men Who Met God, By A.W.Tozer)